Postlip, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire, GL54
Of considerable significance as a small, two-cell Norman chapel, restored to Catholic use at the end of the nineteenth century when ornate carved stone decoration was applied internally. The chapel forms part of an important historic group with Postlip Hall and its medieval tithe barn.
This Norman chapel, reputedly founded by William de Solers about 1139, was used as a farm building for several centuries. It was restored for Catholic use by H. A. Prothero of the Cheltenham architectural firm of Middleton, Prothero & Phillott in 1890-91, for Mr and Mrs Stuart Forster, Catholic converts and friends of Cardinal Manning who had acquired the adjacent Postlip Hall. The chapel was re-consecrated by Bishop Clifford on 16 June 1891.
The chief driving force appears to have been Mrs Elizabeth Stuart Forster. Her 1915 death notice in The Tablet recorded that:
‘Born in Rome, she was received into the Church in 1887, ten years after her marriage with Mr Stuart Forster, a barrister-at-law and a magistrate. Having bought the Manor of Postlip, in Gloucestershire, she there restored, in 1890, the beautiful twelfth-century chapel of St James the Apostle, and this, indeed, was only one of her several beneficences as a church builder or restorer’.
The obituary also records her tragic and unexpected end:
‘Mrs Forster had recently suffered from heart failure, and on Good Friday, while in her drawing room, seems to have fallen forward into the open fireplace during a fainting seizure. Her charred body was discovered by Father Palmer, her chaplain’.
The church is thought to be only the third medieval church in England to have returned to Catholic use, after St John, Northampton (not really a chapel and no longer in Catholic use), and St Etheldreda, Ely Place, London. The Forster family bequeathed it to the parish of Winchcombe but it later again fell into disuse. In 1990 a Friends group was established, which was successful in raising funds for the building’s repair, including a grant of £25,000 from English Heritage. Today the chapel is served irregularly from Chipping Campden; no services have taken place for two years.
The exterior only is described in the list entry, below, which also incorrectly dates the restoration.
The chapel, built of local stone with a stone-slated roof, is a two-cell structure, consisting of a Norman nave and chancel with a seventeenth-century bell turret with ball finial above the chancel arch, and a northwest sacristy added in 1890-1 at the time of the building’s restoration and return to Catholic use. Late Perpendicular east and west windows have been inserted but a small original Norman window with widely splayed internal jambs remains on each side of both nave and chancel. The Norman south doorway has chevron mouldings at right angles on the arch, with ball enrichments in the hoodmould above, star diapering to the abaci and lintel, a recessed tympanum ornamented with overlapping fishscales and jamb shafts with scalloped capitals. The doorway itself has a later three-centred arch.
The interior, with exposed stonework unpleasantly pointed in grey cement, retains its Norman chancel arch with chevron, star and billet decoration. Much of the interior work is of 1890-1, including the sacristy, the neo-Norman triple-arched west gallery, and ornate decoration on the chancel walls (with intersecting arches below and fishscale decoration above) carved, like the altar, by Alfred B. Wall. The rather garish east window of 1895 and small nave north window are by Ward & Hughes.
Roman Catholic Chapel. C12. Limestone ashlar, stone slate roof to coped gables, small stone bell turret over chancel arch with ball finial; chancel has saddle stone with cross. A small 2-cell Norman church, now a private chapel. North doorway with Norman chevron and ball enrichment above single order shafts with cushion capitals, the tympanum decorated with fish-scale; under this a fine Victorian plank door with strap hinges and lock plate, set to very flat 3-centred head. To the right very small slit window, and a low-set buttress flyer; to chancel a small slit window, and in east and west walls 3-light Perpendicular windows: that to the west, over recess with Norman columns. The chapel was in considerable decay, used as an implement house for the estate in the 1960s; it was extensively restored c.1880; the interior is of that date. Forms a group with the Hall (qv) and Tithe Barn (qv).
Listing NGR: SO9983926898
Architect: Not established; J. A. Prothero
Original Date: 1300
Conservation Area: No
Listed Grade: Not Listed